By Matt Oakes Covering THE compelling stories ALL the time. Sports Reporter, Columnist and Radio Personality

Duke-Carolina: A Snow Odyssey

By Matt Oakes Posted February 13, 2014 at 4:00 pm

It wasn’t your typical Duke-Carolina game day. They’re always big. But this one was bigger – for different reasons. And it will have people talking about a couple things concerning this 12th of February day for years to come.

image (2)First, they’ll talk about the “Snowmageddon” of a storm that only comes around in these parts of North Carolina once every decade or so. I’m a native Carolinian, and I’ve never seen snow accumulate as fast as it did in this storm. The white stuff came fast and furious, and every flake found its mark. In a matter of an hour, the streets were covered and causing havoc.

Second, they’ll talk about the postponement of one of the most storied rivalries in college sports. The decision to postpone the game to the following Thursday was historic in itself. No Carolina-Duke game has ever been postponed. It’s unprecedented. But that’s not it. It’s WHEN the postponement decision was made that caused the most stir around town and nationally.

I was stuck in apocalyptic gridlock off 15-501 (Fordham Boulevard) on my way to the Smith Center when I heard the news. It was sometime around 5:30 p.m. when the official word was released. I must say it was the right decision. But why wasn’t it made sooner? It just lacked all common sense. When Duke announced earlier in the day that they would not be boarding the buses bound for Chapel Hill until 6 p.m., that was as good as saying we’re not playing this game.

The conditions were already out of control, with all major arteries fully deadlocked by 2 p.m. I think everybody, deep down, knew this game was never going to be tipped off. But alas, countless journalists from around the country and passionate Tar Heel and Blue Devil fans soldiered on, braving the dangerous elements. If the game was to be played, they weren’t missing out on the festivities.

First, it is the Carolina-Duke game. This fact, coupled with the prospect of the lower bowl of the Dean Dome filled to capacity with rowdy students who waited in line in frozen conditions all day long with the assurance that classes were cancelled the next day, was just too intriguing to turn away.

It would have been an absolutely raucous atmosphere in the Smith Center, an extraordinarily memorable 237th chapter of the Tobacco Road Rivalry for all who managed to survive the trek to the game.

image (3)And for a brief moment on my 6-hour trek from my house in Durham, a mere six miles away from the Smith Center, I was tricked into believing it was going to happen: this dream game. After all, UNC Athletics spokesman Steve Kirschner was reiterating that the game was a go all afternoon against all odds, despite the chaos ensuing around him.

Logic was seemingly thrown out the window for the majority of the afternoon. Pure pandemonium, its willing replacement. Let’s be honest, the ACC should have called this thing earlier in the day. We all heard the foreboding forecast for days in advance, right?

Didn’t the ACC and UNC understand that, despite their insistence on sticking to their policy of playing games as long as officials and teams show up, a lot more working parts are involved in the process? And, it goes without saying, especially in the Duke-Carolina game.

Yes, the media and the fans seem like they should be factored in. ACC officials had to understand that for this rivalry contest, a national treasure, the majority of these people (20,000+) aren’t interested in heeding any advice, however sage, about staying off the roads and just watching the game at home. Nope, not this one. Many folks are willing to risk life and limb to get to the game. And they’re willing to abandon their cars as well.

image (1)On my journey over to the University, I saw countless crazies either voluntarily or involuntarily leave their vehicles on the side of the road in snow banks and just start hiking on foot, the Smith Center their final destination. I know that because they were decked out in their “rivalry-best” attire. Granted, they were passing me by in my car. But abandonment wasn’t an option for me. I didn’t have my ‘stupid hat’ on, as Governor Pat McCrory phrased it it in his State of Emergency speech.

Yes, this rivalry is different. And I’ll always remember this chapter of the Duke-Carolina rivalry, even if there was no action on the hardwood. It was the action off it that we’ll all remember: Duke-Carolina: A Snow Odyssey.

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